Anyone who has been tasked with the simple task of standing up on stage before an audience, opening an envelope and reading the name on the card within will tell you that it is a far more complicated matter than you might think.
At the moment of realisation that everyone in the room is waiting for you to deliver news that will make or break the occasion for some of them, blind panic can set in. Even if opening the envelope is successfully negotiated, a few words in black ink on a white card may as well be in Sanskit. And any additional, unexpected wording on the card can cause confusion and crippling paralysis. Getting the brain to make the mouth say the desired words – which cannot be unsaid, once uttered – becomes a Herculean task.
Spare a thought for Warren Beatty, who was at the centre of the Oscars ceremony when La La Land was mistakenly named best picture instead of Moonlight after poor old Warren found himself holding the wrong envelope as a global audience hung on his every word.
As stage-managed calamities go, this is itself a prize winner, eclipsing the likes of Diana Ross missing an open goal in the 1994 World Cup opening ceremony, or Barry McGuigan being named BBC Sports Personality of the Year as “Barry McCochrane”.
But let’s get this matter into perspective. It isn’t a disgrace or a scandal, it is simply a blunder caused by human error. And apart from cringing at heartfelt winning speeches which should not have been made, the farce is actually very funny. Of course the Oscars should not suffer this kind of embarrassment, but that’s central to the story’s appeal: luvvies botch their lines, big time. And so this year, the winner is ... everyone who was watching.